'Son Of A Gun' writer-director Julius Avery won a Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival for his 2008 'Jerrycan' short, as well as also picking up an AFI Award. Six years on and his feature directorial debut fulfils the promise of his previous efforts, delivering a deliciously entertaining and undoubtedly somewhat ludicrous heist thriller.
The focus on young prisoner has been exploited in recent years through the likes of 2013's 'Starred Up' and Jacques Audiard's terrific 'A Prophet' - here, Brenton Thwaites takes the role of JR, a youthful figure determined to survive his incarceration. He immediately tries to ingratiate himself with the notorious Brendan (an electric Ewan McGregor) through a mutual love of chess, eventually succeeding.
JR's new-found alignment lands him deep into mob life, where he is attracted to the allure of guns, cars, and girls - in particular, the vivacious and forbidden fruit of Alicia Vikander's Tasha. With the glamour comes the crime, and JR is forced into an armed heist in which he never looks comfortable. Speaking of comfortable, McGregor appears to be in full control of his character from the very opening of the film - arguably his best performance in years.
'Son Of A Gun' is the latest in a slew of excellent Aussie crime dramas, which includes 'Animal Kingdom' (2010) and 2011's 'Snowtown', albeit significantly breezier than the formerly named offerings. The screenwriting tropes might be tried, tested, and tired, but the direction is taut, and the execution of action set pieces is especially adept. 'Son Of A Gun' breathlessly hurtles toward its conclusion, taking in unpredictable turns, but Avery just about manages to balance legitimacy and audacity.
Find more info about the film and remaining screenings at the 58th BFI London Film Festival here.